O'Brien expects no changes before deadline
With O'Neal, Tinsley injured, Pacers' Bird is finding it difficult to make a beneficial trade
By Mike Wells
Indiana Pacers coach Jim O'Brien
believes he will be coaching the same group of players he began the season with come 3 p.m. today, which is the NBA
"That's my sense; this will be the group we will have," O'Brien said.
Team president Larry Bird
will continue to work the phones up to the deadline as he tries to fix a team that could be on its way to missing the playoffs for the second straight season.
Bird is having a difficult time pulling off a trade because the two players the Pacers wouldn't mind moving -- Jermaine O'Neal
and Jamaal Tinsley
-- are both injured.
"Of course, you always wonder if you're going to get traded," said Pacers center Jeff Foster
, who has been mentioned in some trade rumors. "It's human nature to wonder. It's part of the business, though."
After Wednesday night's loss to Cleveland, the Pacers are 21/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"It is what it is," O'Brien said when asked about trying to reach the playoffs with the same group of players. "I happen to like coaching this group of players. I think they feel like they haven't played their best basketball. . . . If Larry and his group decide to make a change, we'll make that adjustment. If this is the group that has to fight it out for the playoffs, that's fine with me."
Sitting some more
The Pacers are losing and they've got a shortage of big men.
Still, Pacers forward Ike Diogu
continues to be planted deep on the bench, and O'Brien has no intention of giving him significant minutes until he gets a better grasp of the offensive and defensive system.
"Like everybody has to, he has to earn minutes," O'Brien said, "executing schemes, executing what we want done. When people do that, then they increase their playing time. When you look at Ike, over the course of the whole year, offensively we struggle when Ike is on the floor. As a matter of fact, we're shooting under 40 percent. Our offense needs to flow in order to give us a best chance."
Diogu has played more than 10 minutes just once since the end of December. He had four points and one rebound in five minutes in Wednesday night's 106-97 loss to Cleveland.
Diogu is usually effective in the few minutes he plays because he has a sense for the ball in rebounding and he has a scorer's mentality, but O'Brien's system relies on ball movement and team defense.
"I think Ike will benefit greatly by being with the same coach for more than six months," O'Brien said. "One of the things I think has hurt Ike is he has had four coaches in less than four years."
No increase in prices
The Pacers, who are last in the league in attendance, will not raise season ticket prices next season.
Lower-level season tickets start at $3,195. Upper-level season tickets start at $450. More than 2,800 tickets will be available for $10, and more than 8,000 will be available for $25 or less at each home game.
Center David Harrison
joined Tinsley and O'Neal in street clothes Wednesday with a right ankle injury. The Pacers don't have a timetable for Harrison's return.
Call Star reporter Mike Wells at (317) 444-6053.